Wind Resource Assessment
All markets for wind turbines require an estimate of how
much wind energy is available at potential development sites. Correct estimation of the
energy available in the wind can make or break the economics of wind plant development.
Wind maps developed from the late '70s to the early '90s provided reasonable estimates of
areas in which good wind resources could be found. Now, new computing tools and new
meteorological data sets allow researchers to create even more accurate and detailed wind
maps of the world.
Wind mapping and validation techniques developed at the
NWTC along with collaborations with U.S. companies produce high-resolution maps of the
United States that paint a new picture of the wind resource potential. Information System
mapping tools and an array of satellite, weather balloon, and meteorological tower data,
combined with much-improved numerical computer models provide more data. The higher
horizontal resolution of these maps allows for more accurate depiction of the overall wind
resource and has led to the identification of new wind development areas where the wind
resource was previously considered unsuitable.
NWTC provides technical assistance in wind resource
assessment including the development and validation of high-resolution wind maps. The
focus is to provide the wind industry, policy makers, and other stakeholders with applied
wind resource data, information products (e.g., maps), and technical assistance with
increasing emphasis on increased heights to effectively evaluate and develop wind
potential. For example, a recent project resulted in the development of new wind resource
maps at heights of 80 and 100 meters for the contiguous United States and estimates the
wind energy potential that would be possible from development of the available windy land
The ability to accurately predict when the wind will blow
will help remove barriers to wind energy development by allowing wind-power-generating
facilities to commit to power purchases in advance. NREL researchers work with federal,
state, and private organizations to validate the nation's wind resources and support
advances in wind forecasting techniques and dissemination. Wind resource validation is
important for both wind resource assessment and the integration of wind farms into an
energy grid. Validating new, high-resolution wind resource maps will provide an accurate
reading of the wind resource at a particular site. Development of short-term (1 to 4
hours) forecasting tools will help energy producers proceed with new wind farm projects
and avoid the penalties they must pay if they do not meet their hourly generation targets.
In addition, validating new high-resolution wind resource maps will give people interested
in developing wind energy projects greater confidence as to the level of wind resource for
a particular site.